In the final major of 2021, Collin Morikawa emerged from a star-studded Sunday leaderboard to win the British Open, making history in the process. The 24-year-old American is the first golfer to win two different major titles in his first appearance —he previously won the 2020 PGA Championship. The win was worth $2.07 million in prize money out of the tournament’s $11.5 million purse.
Morikawa turned pro only two years ago and hit the ground running with 22 consecutive made cuts, the second-longest streak to start a career, after the 25 by Tiger Woods. He ranked fourth in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the 149th British Open, and the win was his fifth PGA Tour victory and pushed his course winnings this year to $6.9 million, tops on the Tour.
He held off Jordan Spieth down the stretch to win at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, by two strokes. Spieth has rebounded in 2021 after several down years and is an example of how lucrative golf can be for a rising American star.
Spieth won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 before his 21st birthday and added a British Open two years later. Sponsors flocked to the Texan, and he quickly became one of the highest-paid golfers, earning roughly $30 million a year from sponsors. Despite Spieth’s slump heading into 2021, he still ranked fifth among the top-earning golfers with an estimated $29.6 million from prize money and endorsements in the 12 months ending May 31.
Woods was one of Morikawa’s idols growing up, and they are both represented by Excel Sports Management, whose golf division is led by uber-agent Mark Steinberg. Morikawa’s sponsors include TaylorMade, Adidas, Omega, Therabody, U.S. Bank and Grant Thornton. He is in line for bonuses worth seven figures for the British Open victory, and his asking price just jumped on any new endorsement deals.
Golf is in an incredibly attractive demographic for sponsors, thanks to the high-net-worth fans who spend money on equipment, cars, watches and financial services. Hospitality is another component. “We find a lot of sponsors want to get involved with golf because they have the ability to tap into these C-suite level of executives that they want to do business with,” Octagon’s Ross Chouler told Sportico last month. Chouler is the agent for another rising American star, Xander Schauffele.
The PGA Tour and the sport’s marketing partners have been searching for a breakout star to fill the void left by Woods and Phil Mickelson as their days on the leaderboard dwindle. The current crop of Americans under 30 in the top 10 world rankings is fertile ground between Morikawa, Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau. Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka are just on the other side of 30, while Spieth, who ranks No. 23 currently, is still only 27.
Morikawa is not going to sit back and smell the roses after hoisting the Claret Jug. He’s headed straight to Tokyo to compete in the Summer Olympics. “The Olympics are the same goal—to win,” said Morikawa after his Sunday round. “I’m very happy that golf is in the Olympics now because it’s just an extra incentive to just add something to your resume that not a lot of people have an opportunity to do.”